The blindfold is being yanked off lady justice.

The blindfold is being yanked off lady justice.

In July of 2022, the Los Angeles Times published columnist Nicholas Goldberg's essay titled “Hate the Supreme Court? Our Problems Actually Start with the Constitution.” ( Mr. Goldberg’s column does a good job of capturing left-leaning outrage with the U.S. Constitution and describing the constraints to fixing it. He is not the first or only. Grievance comes from every color of the political spectrum. I disagree with many, maybe all, of his political points. But I agree with his conclusion. It would be a worthy effort for our political thought leaders to publicly debate features of a modernized document.

Reading the words of Common Sense, the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, and the Constitution makes obvious to me how learned our founders were in governance and human nature, and how they captured both in the idea of our nation. That idea was elegantly simple. It recognized the native self-interests and tribalism of humans and formed a republic around the lowest denominators of those characteristics. A government of limited powers was established to ensure justice, tranquility, defense, welfare, and liberty:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” – Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, enacted by the Constitutional Convention in 1789.

People from all over the world sacrifice to come here because that idea of governance is the best in the history of society. I pray they are not misled. The idea is getting lost. In my opinion, it is too early to call our government a failure. But that’s where it’s headed. Is there a metric by which the effectiveness of our federal government is improving? If so, it is not apparent to me. But a premise of the founders’ idea was that if government fails in its duty, it is the right of the people to abolish it and institute a new one:

“ – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” - from The Declaration of Independence, ratified by the Continental Congress, 1776.

Mr. Goldberg doesn’t make it clear whether he supports abolition. However, there are abolitionists among us, both witting and unwitting. The nation’s formative idea is not their guiding light. They are annoyed by the limiting principles. Over the last three administrations, the authoritarian zealots who have infested our parties want the nation, or maybe the world, to be different than it is. They conscript the power of our federal government to force change beyond the purview of its design (See the December 6, 2022 column “Bad Sausage – An Argument for Divided Government.") The blindfold is being yanked off lady justice. Civic vitriol is more common than domestic tranquility. Borders are only selectively defended. The education and lifespans of citizens are in decline. Liberty is no longer a paramount virtue (See the October 28, 2022 column “Liberty Versus Existence.”) They are wrecking it from the inside.

Mr. Goldberg outlines shortcomings that could legitimately be improved in modern context. However, he also parrots the abolitionists’ disdain for the structure of the Senate, the Electoral College, and the Supreme Court. The abolitionist impression is that national, popular elections and proportionate representation would be better.

They enjoin a “majority-should-rule” principle in defiance of a “liberty-for-all” principle. They don’t accept that our federal government was not designed to rule. It was designed to assure self-determination by preventing tyrannical rule by a monarch or a slim majority – which is the downside of pure democracy.

Our founders argued these points in the context of philosophy, history, and faith. They presented and defended their ideas in writing, which can still be read today, and much of which continues to be relevant. Writing, especially in their circumstances, forced clarity and encouraged engagement. That is a big reason they were able to interact so constructively to create what became the United States of America (See the March 3, 2023 column “Writing as Congressional Therapy.”) So I wonder: If today’s abolitionists are so disillusioned with the formative idea of our government, what alternative would they commit to writing? Could they summarize a better idea, describing its principles, like our founders did in the second paragraph of the Declaration?

Might their new Declaration of Dependence read something like this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all People must be made equal despite their differences, that they are endowed by their government with certain revokable rights, that among these is Free Stuff, Ex-Genetic Self-Identity, and the pursuit of consequence-free Sex. That to secure these rights, Laws are enforced between People, deriving their authority from the most recent recommendations of government experts … ”?

Among their enumerated rights, might they include:

Government shall assure that accusers may implicate any offender and hold them accountable according to the practices of the accuser’s community of contacts. Accusers have the right to a speedy up-or-down majority vote of that community.”? This would be much more efficient than a presumption of innocence.


Government shall assure that People do nothing to offend other People. This includes unpopular speech, religious practices, uninvited sexual advance or touching, food choices, {list keeps going}…”? They could make the whole world a safe space.

Might their new, global anthem be John Lennon’s “Imagine?

You see where this goes.

I acknowledge a bias toward traditionalism. Our founders knew that faith, family, and community were paramount values to any individual. Among my community, and I suspect most communities, they still are. If that primacy is not protected, then government becomes judge, jury, savior, and provider-in-need – our de facto raison d’etre. That defies human nature. If liberty and self-determination are forfeited, dependency must result. The distance between dependency and tyranny is short. Just ask any Venezuelan.

Thus, of the choice to “fix” versus “abolish” the Constitution, I am strongly in the camp of “fix.” The original idea is still the best. It just needs better practitioners. The subterfuge of our political parties needs to be checked.

The United States is a challenging place to govern. Our citizens have no common culture and a disparate history. We are large and dispersed. Yet as the global beacon for freedom lovers, we clearly have something right. I long to read thoughtful arguments in pursuit of renourishing our republic, as opposed to letting it go to seed.

I just don’t know where to expect them to come from.


Joel Lorentzen lives in Rock Island, Illinois, and publishes a column on titled “Uncommon Sense.” Find all of his essays at

Support the River Cities' Reader

Get 12 Reader issues mailed monthly for $48/year.

Old School Subscription for Your Support

Get the printed Reader edition mailed to you (or anyone you want) first-class for 12 months for $48.
$24 goes to postage and handling, $24 goes to keeping the doors open!

Click this link to Old School Subscribe now.

Help Keep the Reader Alive and Free Since '93!


"We're the River Cities' Reader, and we've kept the Quad Cities' only independently owned newspaper alive and free since 1993.

So please help the Reader keep going with your one-time, monthly, or annual support. With your financial support the Reader can continue providing uncensored, non-scripted, and independent journalism alongside the Quad Cities' area's most comprehensive cultural coverage." - Todd McGreevy, Publisher